|LA Man Cleared of Murder After 34 Years in Prison|
|By LIZ FIELDS (@lianzifields)||Nov 9, 2013, 4:50 PM|
A Los Angeles man who spent the last 34 years in jail for murder has finally walked free after the sisters of the case's sole witness said their sibling lied in court.
Kash Delano Register, 53, emerged from Twin Towers downtown jail on Friday afternoon, smiling and clasping his mother's hand. He said he couldn't be bitter, even after spending decades behind bars for a crime he didn't commit.
"I'm just in a numb feeling right now," Register told reporters outside the jail. "You know, it just hasn't really set in yet. I know it's real, but it just hasn't truly set in yet. It's a beautiful feeling, though."
Register has always maintained he did not kill Jack Sasson, 78, in the carport of Sasson's West Los Angeles home in April 1979. He was convicted primarily on the witness account of a neighbor and was sentenced to 27 years to life in prison.
Register was finally exculpated on Thursday after Superior Court Judge Katherine Mader ruled that prosecutors tried to hide evidence that could have proven Register's innocence and used false witness testimony.
The witness, Brenda Anderson, had changed her account numerous times since identifing Register, then 18, as the gunman, even though his girlfriend, who was pregnant at the time, testified that she was with him when the shooting took place.
Last month when Anderson was asked in court to confirm if Register was the shooter, she replied: "It may or may not have been that person."
No definitive physical evidence had been discovered to link Register with the shooting. The fingerprints found on Sasson's car did not match Register and police never found the murder weapon.
Police did recover a pair of pinstriped pants from Register's home, which sported a speck of blood smaller than a pencil eraser. But the O-type blood blot matched both Sasson and Register.
Brenda Anderson, who was 19 at the time of the shooting, told police she saw Register running away from Sasson's carport, but that wasn't the story according to her sisters who were also there at the time.
One sister, Sheila Vanderkam, said the siblings were attempting to hide a package of Avon products they had stolen from a neighbor at the time. The other sister, Sharon Anderson, said they heard shots, but were too far away to see the shooter clearly.
Vanderkam further said that when she and Sharon Anderson tried to alert police to their sister's false testimony in 1979, an LAPD detective at the station tried to silence her.
"The detective placed his finger over his mouth (like a shush sound) and just stared at me," Vanderkam said in her declaration. "He made it very clear to me, without actually saying anything, that I was to stay out of it."
None of this was revealed until Register's lawyers -- a team of attorneys and students from Loyola Law School's Project for the Innocent, presented it in their new case. Vanderkam had contacted Register's lawyers after performing an online search of his name on a convict website in 2011. To her horror, she realized that he was still in jail.
One of the most persuasive facts about the case, lawyers said, was that Register was eligible for parole for almost 20 years, but during every one of his 11 hearings, maintained his innocence. As a result, he was denied parole every time.
The team of attorneys had been working for more than a year on the case, and some cried along with Register in the courtroom when his victory was announced.
"I've gotten very close to Kash. He's very strong, sweet, gentle, lovely person and I'm very close to his mother, too," Adam Grant, the deputy director of the Loyola Law School told ABC News. "We knew this could possibly be something like his last chance. For both of them it was unimaginable horror that they would never be together again."
"That was victory," said Register's 76-year-old mother, Wilma Register. "That was what I have prayed for, for the world to see that this is not the right man. The system can make mistakes, but nobody believes that until it happens to them."
Since being incarcerated at the age of 18, Register has missed out on a lifetime of news and events, including the birth of his daugher, now 34, and two young grandchildren. His daughter and her family live out of state, and Register plans to visit and meet them as soon as he can.
To get him through his ordeal, he says he just "kept faith."
"I got acquainted with some nice people to help me legally. Once that happened, it took off. It took a while, but it took off," Register said. "I can't be angry. Everybody makes mistakes," he said. "It's just the best system we got. Mistakes are made."
The AP contributed to this report.